PEAT SADEH, Gaza Strip -- Residents of a small Jewish settlement said yesterday that they have reached an accord to move to a village inside Israel, giving a boost to the government's contentious Gaza pullout plan by becoming the first community to agree to be evacuated.
The accord with Peat Sadeh -- a tiny, upscale farming village tucked into the southwest corner of Gaza about a mile from the Mediterranean Sea -- raised the ire of hard-line settler leaders, who are mounting a campaign against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to remove all 21 settlements from Gaza and four from the West Bank next year.
Sharon's hard-line coalition government fell apart over his sudden policy shift a year ago, forcing him to try to reconstitute his team with the moderate Labor Party, his traditional rival.
Earlier this year, Sharon abruptly abandoned decades of work for settlement construction and expansion, calling Gaza's settlements ''untenable" because only 8,200 Israelis live there among more than 1 million Palestinians.
Israelis have lived well in Gaza, but their settlements have always been a sore point with the Palestinians.
At Peat Sadeh, affluence is evident in the neat houses and expensive cars parked outside. Residents are farmers and say they do considerable business with their Palestinian neighbors.
''Sharon built this community," said Ella Amin, 39. ''He hoped that it would be one of the most beautiful in the area, but the uprising ruined all of our dreams."
Yonatan Bassi, director of the government administration overseeing the Gaza pullout, said the accord with the residents of Peat Sadeh was reached last week.
He said the settlement's 20 families, along with five from other settlements, would move to Mavkiim, a farming village near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, beginning in March.
Residents said they're leaving reluctantly.
''I'm still against it," said Vicki Sabaj, 56, ''but there's no choice. At least I'll go together with my friends."
Sabaj does not believe she will be safer inside Israel. ''If I leave, the border moves with me," she said. Mavkiim is about 4 miles from the Gaza border.
The Peat Sadeh accord is the first under the government's withdrawal plan, but Bassi said officials are negotiating with a ''great number" of settlers willing to leave.
Gaza settler spokesman Eran Sternberg disputed Bassi's assertion, saying the vast majority of settlers remain opposed.
At nightfall yesterday, dozens of settlers and supporters blocked traffic in Tel Aviv around the Defense Ministry, carrying pieces of mortars and rockets that have fallen on Gaza settlements in recent months.
Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made his strongest appeal yet for an end to Palestinian violence against Israel. Abbas, the leading candidate in a Jan. 9 election to replace Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority, repeated Arafat's positions but said they must be achieved by political means.
''The only choice before us is the path of peace," he said in a campaign speech. ''Using weapons is impossible and unacceptable and reflects badly on us."
Abbas said the Palestinian state must include the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, and he again endorsed the Palestinian demand of a right of return for all refugees from the two-year war that followed Israel's creation to their original homes with their descendants -- about 4 million people.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, but previous governments have indicated a readiness to compromise over the city and negotiate borders. However, the ''right of return" remains a deal-breaker; Israel says it is designed to flood the Jewish state with Arabs.
In Gaza violence yesterday, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians crawling toward the border fence near the Bureij refugee camp, the military said. Palestinian security said the two were armed members of the militant group Hamas.